A phone call.
It isn't true.
I haven't met her for the past one year. I was going to meet her soon. I had to tell her I'm working now. That I've made it through. That I have missed her these past few years. That I think of her so often. That I speak of her so often. That my friends know of my teacher who could transform an ordinary class into a mind-bending exercise . And that when they tell me how lucky I am I know exactly what they mean.
Four years of history, life, the universe and everything else. The mad-frenzy of G.S Elections, an unreal year with the Students' Executive, innumerable mornings of reading the news, chalo bhor ke raahi , scanning the paper for anecdotes and discoveries from bygone eras, projects on Sufi music and British memsahibs, bulletin boards, the cold war, We Didn't Start The Fire, panel discussions on Mohammed bin Tughlaq, the controversial history textbooks, the refrain of songs sung again and again in class and in the choir, taking frantic notes in class trying to keep up with her, classes in the warm sun on a winter's day, a card from her on children's day that spoke volumes, a note from her in a paper, the collective gasp of surprise when we got to know she was an F1 enthusiast, the steady stream of seniors who came by every now and then - always to meet her in particular, the stories of her students which she told and re-told a million times, her laughing eyes and animated hands, a yearbook , more songs, diya ceremony and a farewell that ended with karavaan chal diya, door ke desh ko, aur khamosh hum, dekhte reh gaye.
We learnt from her but she never failed to remind us that after more than two decades of teaching she was learning too. From us.
My memory of her was so much in conflict with what was in front of me. A small shred of the person i knew- we all knew. To see her simply lie there motionless was a reality I did not want to accept. I walked up to her to say goodbye, but i couldn't. To say goodbye would mean letting go. And I wasn't ready. Tears flowed not so much in sorrow but in sheer disbelief. In anger and pain at the thought of one such as her silenced by death. An unbearable lightness.
Death. The only certainty. And yet its coming leaves us powerless against the stark truth. She is gone. But even so, her spirit is too big and too free to be contained by the finality of death. I hope she finds peace. A place to rest with her books, Michael Schumacher, music, maps, questions and a window to look out of.
If the universe really is made of stories, then Chitra ma'am's stories will glow in the dark.
with love, gratitude and warm memories of times well spent. you are missed.